Why the Neurodiversity Movement Matters

I was a reasonably young child when I was diagnosed with ADHD. I wasn’t one of those cases where the diagnosis was just being tossed around and applied to kids behaving as kids always have…in my case (as with many others back in the 1980s), it was a legitimate diagnosis. I was prescribed Ritalin at that time, and it did seem to do the trick–when I was in school. By the time I’d been home for a little while, I was twice as difficult to deal with as I’d been before the diagnosis and prescription. Before that, I’d been a handful–no surprise to anyone who knows me as even an acquaintance, even as an adult–after that, I was a holy fucking terror.
It didn’t take long before my mother stopped me taking the Ritalin, because it was ultimately a bit of an issue. If it had been a few years later, they probably could have found some sort of scheduled dosage that might not have produced the same negative side-effects. Whatever the case may be, life goes on.
Years later I was further diagnosed with passive-aggressive personality disorder, not to be mistaken with someone behaving in a passive-aggressive manner. They are two distinctly different things, though there are some commonalities in the manifestation of passive-aggressive personality disorder and an individual being a passive-aggressive asshole–but there’s no sense in going into that here. As with other personality disorders, there is no drug treatment associated with the passive-aggressive disorder–it’s a wiring issue rather than a chemical one.
Passive-aggressive personality disorder frequently goes hand-in-hand with anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder (MDD), suicidal ideation, and substance abuse. You might have guessed it if you figured there’s a reason I mention all of those things in particular.
You win the prize!
There is no prize.
Get used to disappointment.
In addition to these things I’ve already mentioned, there have been strong signs of PTSD related to assorted experiences from my childhood (both as a young child and in my teen years). With all of those factors combined, I like to think I’ve turned out to be a reasonably functional adult and a productive member of society. I definitely have my issues here and there, and I can certainly still be quite difficult to deal with in even small doses (depending on the day)…but, all-in-all I’m keeping it together rather well if I do say so myself–and I do, so don’t argue with me.
I wish there had been something like the neurodiversity movement when I was younger, or that it had been more well-established and well-known at that time. I spent most of my life feeling like there were things wrong with me as if I were broken or damaged in some way–and perhaps I was to some extent. I still frequently refer to myself as being precisely that. I laugh and joke about how I’m broken or damaged, dysfunctional and maladjusted…but there’s that kernel deep inside that curls up into a little fetal shape whenever I do it.
It’s ok, though, I’m a bit of a masochist.
The neurodiversity movement is focused on treating these (mostly high functioning) people as being nothing more than a natural (and sometimes valuable) thread of the overall tapestry of human diversity. It’s refreshing and more than a little bit liberating to be treated as if I fall into a spectrum of what can simply be called a person with a normal human brain–as preconditioned as I might be to consider it anything but normal.
There are a lot of us out here.
Some of us are more high functioning than and some less so, but there’s no cause to pretend that we’re somehow less than other people, regardless of where we fall on that spectrum. It takes some degree of patience to deal with some of us, myself included. Personally, I recognize how challenging I can be on a normal basis and I make concessions for that. I’m not exclusive in doing so. Most of us who fall into the neurodivergent categorization are well aware of these things and we’ve learned to cope (as best we can) and to provide a bit of leeway for others in our lives. This isn’t true for everyone, of course, as there are extreme cases, but a large number of us are just like everyone else, just with a little bit more psychological/emotional/mental baggage in tow.

For some additional reading on the Neurodiversity Movement, I’m including the following link:

https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/empowering-your-child/building-on-strengths/neurodiversity-what-you-need-to-know

Thoughts On American Polarization

We are polarized.
Our culture is playing a high-stakes game of tug-of-war with the Overton Window and the view through that window in America has been growing progressively more right-leaning and red over the years. The talking heads fanning flames of fear will tell you that America is being consumed from within by “communists” and “socialists” whenever there’s even a tiny concession made concerning basic human rights or the recognition that homosexuals, transgender people, women, or any sort of minority group haven’t been receiving a fair shake. The reality is that we’re nowhere near moving left in this country. Even the Democrats tend to disregard the most left-leaning members of their party.
In large part, this is due to Democrats not being progressive enough in their policies and largely being unwilling to play the same rhetorical shell game with facts and truth that the other side has become expert at playing. There’s an unwillingness to think big or take big risks within the bulk of the Democratic Party whereas the Republicans have no problem with lining up behind a man who represented the worst extremes of right-wing politics in America because they assumed that it would get them just a little bit closer to their ideal positions of power and authority. The most progressive members of the Democratic Party, on the other hand, have to fight tooth-and-nail to receive even marginal representation when it comes to matters of policy. There’s a bit of simpering cowardice and a lack of boldness within the bulk of the Democratic establishment, and it’s been that way for decades.
So yes, we are indeed polarized in several key aspects. That’s a hard truth of American politics. It does present a challenge.
The worst part about it all is that we’re not quite as polarized as it superficially might seem.
There are a lot of points where individuals on the left and those on the right are in total agreement. The focus is never on those things in our political discourse, especially through media of all kinds (whether we’re talking about mainstream media–and that does include Fox and OAN, though I see a lot of people trying to pretend otherwise–or social media). This division is cultivated by keeping people on the left appearing as crazy socialists to those on the right and the folks on the right appearing to be mentally deficient bigots in the eyes of the people on the left. These descriptors are certainly true of some individuals, but they aren’t representative of the bulk of either group.
This is going to devolve into a rambling diatribe, I’m sure. I know myself well enough to see that on the near horizon. I apologize for that being the case. I can only hope you’re able to keep up with me along the way.
I do lean Socialist in my political views. It can easily be inferred that I’m pretty far left of the Democratic Party (as a whole). I don’t dispute this at all. This is not to say that I think the Federal Government should become a nanny state or that I feel like D.C. should be the focal point of a new religion.
I’m not a nationalist, after all.
I believe the role of the US government is to serve the best interests of the American people. That’s it. That’s the sole purpose of it. Politicians are our servants, meant to act in our best interests. This is not what is happening.
What we see today, from the vast majority of our political figures, is a government acting in the interest of those who fund their reelection campaigns and provide them with hand-outs. They’ll toss some superficially pleasing and inoffensive concessions our way once in a while, as long as it doesn’t cost them too much by way of campaign funding…but that’s about all we get for the price of admission we pay by voting and participating in the democratic process.
This is not the way it’s supposed to be working.
We all know it’s wrong…right and left, center and fringe.
The only people who don’t seem to know it’s wrong are the ones directly benefitting from the oligarchy we’ve allowed to grow within our nation like an unchecked tumor.
This is not being written for the people who subscribed to the QAnon conspiracy. There’s no getting through to you if you believe Donald Trump was the literal savior of America (or the world). You’re too far gone for me to have any hope of reaching you. This is not for the militant leftists who somehow believe that we’re going to overthrow the American neo-fascist government and usher in a utopia of communal living and worker-owned industry overnight. Though people in those aforementioned groups still recognize that things are wrong with the political arena in America, they’re choosing to cling to fantasies and wish-fulfillment rather than reality. That’s a whole different conversation for a different day.
It’s also a conversation I don’t care to have.
Most of us aren’t bigots. Or should I say that all of us are bigots, just not quite the way the term gets tossed around?
I know that’s difficult for some people on the left and the right to acknowledge…but it’s true.
No, most people aren’t homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist, or religiously intolerant beyond a tiny extent.
That tiny bit of bigotry…well…we all have it. We’re all ignorant, some more than others. We’re all biased in different ways, larger and smaller. We’ll never find any sort of resolution as a society if we can’t come to terms with the fact that we are all wildly imperfect.
The only thing we can do is come together. The more we meet new people and interact with others who aren’t like us, the greater the chance that we can overcome those cultural biases deep within our psychologies. I’m no less guilty of this than anyone reading these words.
For most of us, our biases are minimal…though no less problematic. These things can be overcome. I honestly do have this much faith in my fellow human beings. I’ll admit that I could be overly optimistic here, but I believe most of us are better than a lot of us think we are.
This is not to say that systemic racism is not a real thing.
It is.
This is not to say that there is a profound undercurrent of homophobia and transphobia within large segments of the population.
There absolutely is.
This is not to say that sexism in America (and a whole lot of the world) is not a real cause for concern.
It most assuredly is.
There are, without question, awful people out there who believe terrible things about other people based on either their ignorance or contempt.
If we take the time to try and explain things to others without frustration and impatience, maybe we can come to better terms with one another. We might even be able to get through to some of the people who otherwise seem irredeemable.
We need to come together, sooner rather than later. If we can’t figure out how to do this, we’re going to continue being ground beneath the treads of those who benefit the most from us being at one another’s throats. Until we stand together, we’ll continue to find ourselves crushed, consumed, and disposed of.
We all see money being squandered on ridiculous corporate bail-outs while the middle class disappears below a rising poverty line. It’s fair to say that almost no one, regardless of party affiliation, sees something like that and agrees that it’s something good or right. We’ve been seeing it in D.C. a great deal since the pandemic started in early 2020. There was no hesitation when it came to bailing out Wall Street and corporations where the CEOs and board members had been seeing massive rises in profit while the employees receive barely subsistence wages. Money that was earmarked for small businesses, to keep them afloat during these troubling times ended up being approved as loans for companies that needed no assistance. People who were without work had unemployment benefits stripped away before anything had been done to improve their odds of returning to work. Politicians in Congress nickeled and dimed the actual voting population, trying to figure out just how little they could offer while still appearing to care just a little bit. And then, only a few short months later, they were doing the same thing all over again. They happily approved money for the people and corporate entities who fund their campaigns but decried payments (beyond a pittance) sent directly to people as socialism. We saw the same thing back in the recession more than a decade ago as well. We tossed money at banks and corporate entities while we allowed people to be swallowed up by debt and poverty.
We see these things happening while infrastructure around the country fails. Bridges and roads are maintained poorly, utility networks are neglected so that the providers can obtain record profits, some of those profits sure to be funneled into the coffers of the politicians who turned a blind eye or actively aided in deregulation under the guise of honoring the free market. Most of us see through these infantile rationalizations, but they succeed in these selfish grifts by counting on the polarization of our political climate to guarantee their base will still support them.
We squander countless billions of dollars on corporate welfare, regime-changing conflicts, and a war on drugs that has been a transparent failure since the beginning. All the while we’re told that it’s too costly to divert mere fractions of that money to programs that would improve the overall quality of life for American citizens…programs like universal healthcare or free access to higher education and trade school. We’re told that this is “socialism” and that we can’t afford it, while the rest of the civilized world succeeds in doing these things without becoming the socialist dystopias American politicians and media talking heads insist we would become. We’re told to worry about higher taxes when most of us are already paying more for insurance premiums and deductibles than we’d ever end up paying in increased taxes. We’re told that we should selfishly refuse to spend our money on someone else’s medical costs, even though that is precisely what our insurance premiums are for. The insurance companies don’t pay those bills out of some endless surplus of funds they generate for themselves, they utilize the money you and I are paying and divert that money to the medical costs of other individuals with the same insurance provider.
We’re told that raising the minimum wage in proportion with the cost of living (rate of inflation) and the degree of productivity will raise costs (creating a cascade effect of ever-increasing inflation rates) and force businesses to close their doors…but both of those things have been happening for decades while the living wage has remained stagnant. Some of these fears could be offset if we introduced universal healthcare, as employers would not have to dedicate funds to insurance companies for their co-pay portions.
We’re told that we should find nobility in pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, often by individuals who come from families who passed wealth down generation by generation in the form of land ownership, business partnerships, or literal wealth. We’re told that America is a land of equal opportunity by these same people after generations of dominion have allowed their particular class to largely rig the game in their favor. As an individual who descended from a family who took advantage of the Homesteader Act back in the day. I’m familiar with the myth of Manifest Destiny. Those early Westward traveling settlers were handed parcels of land by a government that didn’t own the land in the first place…all for nothing more than working the land and making lives for themselves.
What is being given to us for our labor these days?
Insufficient wages, insurance that denies our claims when we need them most (while we make the higher-ups at these insurance companies sufficient money that they can buy politicians), and the sense of being beaten down beneath the feet of those who use our labor to elevate themselves?
Whether we want to admit it or not. We have these things in common. I have a decent job, as far as wages are concerned when compared to the difficulty. My insurance is pretty decent and not particularly expensive. There are plenty of us in this position.
For every one of us, there’s someone miserable where they are, and that misery is being compounded by the exploitation of the people they work for. It’s easy to claim they should just leave those jobs to find something else.
When are they supposed to find the time to look for new work while they’re still working the job they wish they could get away from?
What happens to them if they become ill while they’re between jobs?
What if the benefits aren’t as good but the pay is better?
These are concerns that could be entirely eradicated with something as simple as universal healthcare being in place. With guaranteed higher education or trade school, it provides the worker with better leverage as well.
Alright.
Fuck it.
I’ve babbled more than enough. I’ve probably lost the thread somewhere along the way…but I hope you’re able to follow along to some extent.

Corruption and Hypocrisy In South Dakota: or Great Faces, Rigged Cases

As could have been predicted, South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg gets a pass for what should have been a clear-cut case of unintentional vehicular manslaughter (at the very least). After Ravnsborg killed a man in September, while driving distracted (clearly accurate based on the misdemeanors he was charged with), the Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney finally announced that this asshole is facing a whopping three misdemeanor charges; using a mobile electronic device, driving in the wrong lane, and careless driving. Ravnsborg was supposedly sober at the time of the accident…based on an alcohol test performed 15 hours after the incident.

This man hit another human being with his car (while he clearly wasn’t paying any attention), called 911 to claim he believed he hit a deer, and went home to sleep…while another human being never made it home at all. Supposedly, if you believe the story released in Ravnsborg’s statement after he’d gotten a couple of good nights of sleep, the Sheriff had arrived and checked out the damage to Ravnsborg’s vehicle and sent him home. They claimed that they had both looked for the deer while somehow entirely missing the dying (or already dead) man in the ditch next to the scene of the accident. If that’s true–and I don’t believe it is–the Sheriff probably has no business being a Sheriff at all…he has even less business keeping his job if the story is a fabrication. The Sheriff was so kind that he even allowed Ravnsborg to borrow his own vehicle while the damaged vehicle was towed away.

None of this should really surprise anyone familiar with politics in South Dakota. This isn’t even all that dissimilar from an incident involving former Governor Bill Janklow back in 2004.

Even with eyes all over the state and the surrounding states closely watching this case and waiting to see the result of the investigation, there’s so much rampant corruption that this was almost a foregone conclusion.

Welcome to South Dakota, where accountability only exists if you’re poor or uninvolved with politics.

The Substrate Of My Beliefs

I like to think that most of my decisions in politics and life are informed by defensible positions and beliefs.

I believe that LGBTQ people are, first and foremost, well…people. I believe that the love between two people is fundamentally no different, regardless of the sexual organs and gender expression. I’m not always great with using the right words, but I also grew up when referring to friends as “gay” as a term of endearment was commonplace. I still try to get things right, most of the time.
I believe that there is literally mountains of scientific and sociological data supporting the argument that gender is a sociological construct that varies dramatically from culture to culture and that the biological/chromosomal nature of “sex” is nowhere near the binary thing a lot of people cling to out of stubborn resistance to waking up and embracing new knowledge that transforms our earlier assumptions. I like the use of binary in those terms, though…because 1 and 0 could be seen as phallic and vaginal, respectively.
I believe that Black People and other minority groups are arrested, incarcerated, and killed at an improportionate rate because of a series of systems that are geared for inequity and inequality. In other words, I do believe that systemic racism is a very real, life threatening issue in America.
I believe that women are no less capable and valuable within our society, and that there are numerous hurdles and double-standards in place that make things more challenging for women than for men in almost every arena that matters.
I disagree with regime-changing conflicts that aren’t specifically and intentionally for the purpose of mitigating actual human suffering and torture.
I believe that we already spend altogether too much on military and defense, and that we could easily scale things back and do a better job of repairing failing infrastructure at home.
I believe that, aside from the indigenous people, every single person here in America is here because of immigration over less than a thousand years…and that we don’t get to simply say, “no more immigrants,” because they aren’t the right color of skin or believers in the right form of superstition. Most of our ancestors came here with little to nothing, but the dream of a different life. There have always been a small number of bad people who slip through, but the majority of immigrants all along have simply been people who want better for themselves and their loved ones.

I have plenty of other beliefs that are more debatable and more a matter of my personal outlook on things…but the ones I laid out here are the core of what I base my judgments upon.

As to my less concrete beliefs and influencing perspectives:

My views on climate change (I do believe we have had a negative impact that we can–and should–work to remedy) are open to disagreement. I’m no fucking climate scientist, but I’m inclined to trust those who are.

My pro-choice perspective is one based on the fact that it is not up to me to impose my own morality onto others or to have them impose their morality onto me. Additionally, the thought experiment is a solid one. If a fertility clinic were about to explode and I could either save a five-year-old child or a tank containing hundreds of viable, frozen, embryos…I would choose the child 10 times out of 10…unless they were particularly annoying. That, to me, showcases a very real distinction between which is a child and which is not.

I believe healthcare is a right and that no one should go bankrupt or have their lives destroyed because of the skyrocketing costs of healthcare in America.

That list could go on and on…but I would change those assumptions if I were supplied with logically consistent, rational, and well-informed arguments to the contrary.
The ones in the main post…those aren’t going to be changing.

Unwanted Richard: Life Coaching for the Modern Age

I had a brief conversation with an old friend of mine yesterday evening, revolving around the topic of unsolicited dick pics and determining what suitable responses might be. This blog post is emerging from that bit of conversation. The trigger was a suggestion that the recipient reply with a text saying, “That looks like a child’s penis. I’m reporting this.”

A few years back, when my 16-year-old daughter was around 12 or 13, the topic of boys sending pictures of their dicks came up in the car. I don’t recall precisely how the subject was broached, but there’s a fair-to-middling chance that I’d randomly tossed the topic out there for no apparent reason and with nothing that could be interpreted as an antecedent. Anyone who has known me for any length of time probably isn’t terribly surprised by that.

Perhaps to the chagrin of my adolescent daughter–and also my girlfriend, who was in the car with us–I began spouting off things I considered appropriate responses, if (and more likely when) she received her first unsolicited dick pic. It’s an unpleasant thought, knowing that the odds are high that my daughter(s) are subject to that sort of tacky, uncouth, and disgusting behavior from boys or even adult men (since we clearly seem to be incapable of growing up beyond a certain point in many cases)…but I sincerely believe it’s a conversation a parent probably needs to be having with their children.

These suggested responses are mostly geared toward young girls who receive unsolicited dick pics, but some of them are certainly appropriate for adult women as well (including transwomen, as a dear friend of mine has seen a massive uptick in men sliding into her DMs since she began transitioning). I felt it was my responsibility to share these suggestions with any other parents who might end up reading this blog.

Here’s a short list:

“My dad says you might want to have that checked out by a doctor.” — This one is lovely, in part because it implies the recipient shared the offending picture with her father and that the father felt like there was something wrong with the penis in question. It’s both emasculating and potentially paranoia-inducing.

“Why did you just send me a picture of an overcooked hot dog.” — Because it’s just objectively funny.

“I just showed that picture to my mom, and now she won’t stop laughing. I don’t know what’s so funny.” — This one is predicated on the assumption that the individual sending the pictures is perhaps suffering from a bit of fragile masculinity. The thought of being laughed at by an adult female, and the mother of the recipient, should be suitably discouraging.

“That is way smaller than mine.” — I suspect there’s a bit of latent homophobia lurking not far from the surface inside of anyone who’s inclined to send unsolicited dick pics. It’s an assumption, but I’m willing to stand by that assumption.

“Hey! I know this penis! I saw this one on that gay porn site.” — Again, assuming a certain amount of homophobia that accompanies that sort of toxic masculinity.

“My dad took my phone after I showed him the picture, and he just finally gave it back. He’s all flushed and sweaty and he changed clothes.” — This one plays on both the emasculation of the recipient’s father seeing the image and also on the suspected latent homophobia.

“That sort of looks like a penis, just really tiny. Is it a scale model?” — There is no harm in body shaming someone who’s sending you unsolicited dick pics. Die mad about it!

“Hey! That reminds me of giving my baby brother a bath.” — Again, there’s no harm in body shaming the penis of someone with that sort of toxic masculinity.

“Did you just send me a picture of your dog’s penis?” — Red Rocket! Red Rocket! Oh, come on…that’s just funny.

I think it’s important to force some humor and amusement into these sorts of situations, by whatever means necessary. Riff off of these suggestions, or find your own. Whether you’re a pre-teen or middle-aged, there’s a greater than 0 chance you’ve received an unsolicited dick pic…you may as well have some fun with it. Save screen caps and laugh about it with your friends (or even your family, if they’re not too uncomfortable with the subject).

Foreign Aid & International Relations

It seems to me that public comprehension of foreign financial aid is generally pretty low.
Less than 1% of the US Federal budget is typically distributed in the form of foreign aid to other nations, mostly developing nations, but also countries where there are US military bases in place (it’s more than you probably think).
What’s especially humorous to me is the fact that these same people I see complaining about foreign aid being sent to other nations are often the same ones talking about how defense is the most important budgetary concern. It’s like they’re entirely oblivious to the plain fact that federal spending in the form of foreign aid is one of the most important tools in the box where national defense is concerned…no, I misspoke, it’s not like that…it is that. They’re entirely oblivious when it comes to anything pertaining to diplomatic relations, foreign policy, and total federal spending. It’s perhaps not their fault that they’re stupid people, they suckle at a steady diet of bad/misleading information and memes in place of study.
The same people who I see shouting out about American exceptionalism and the superiority of capitalist social and economic structures are seemingly unaware of the way foreign aid is a propagandic method to encourage capitalist transitions in other countries.
I suspect these people also aren’t aware of the fact that more than 3/4 of the foreign aid doesn’t actually go to foreign governments or entities of those governments. It’s perhaps too much to expect that these same people recognize that part of that calculated budget dedication to foreign aid is in the form of military aid (troops and training).
It’s clear that altogether too few people take the time to read or study history in even the most rudimentary sense. This is precisely why I suggested that there needs to be a better focus on sociology and history in our educational system…and not just the, “America is Awesome,” variety certain politicians have been so fond of.

Musings On Education

STEM is important, vitally important.

We absolutely need basic comprehension of math and science literacy to be more widespread here in America (and throughout the rest of the world, of course). We’ve seen precisely how dangerous ignorance of those topics can be.

Just as important, we really need accurate, unbiased, objective lessons in history and sociology to be treated as being of paramount importance for our children. The study of history and of social structures is no less imperative than the study of STEM subjects.

Additionally, it would be great if we could incorporate some low level critical thinking and logic education as early as elementary school as well. Mindfulness and self-awareness could be useful too.

Sure, these things wouldn’t lead to a perfect society…such a thing can’t likely exist…but it would make for a better society, more well-equipped to tackle the obstacles that come with both day-to-day life and more challenging times.

Financial Burdens Existing Only for the Poor

The recent hilarity and turmoil associated with certain hedge funds encountering a mob of amateurs online have certainly done a great deal to showcase the illusory nature and absurdity of our financial reality here in America. That is, assuming it wasn’t already obvious, from the massive disconnect on display with the stock market rising while millions of Americans are still jobless, homeless, or facing poverty.This seems like a good time to discuss the costs and financial burdens that exist only for people below certain levels of income.

Crimes for which the only penalty is a financial one:

For an individual making $70,000 a year, a fine of $100 amounts to only 0.14% of their income. Assuming a $15 minimum wage (which isn’t a reality yet), that same $100 fine amounts to 0.32% of the individual’s $31,200 annual pay (nevermind the fact that federal minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009, which is an income of only $15,080 per year). That translates into more than twice the proportional loss for the individual at this hypothetical minimum wage. If the higher-income earner in this thought experiment was making an income of $500k annually, we’d be looking at only a loss of 0.02% of their overall income with the payment of a $100 fine. For someone at the hypothetical minimum wage of $15 an hour, that percentage of their income would be only $62.40 (it would only be $30.16 for someone at the actual minimum wage of $7.25)…but in reality, no matter how much or how little the individual earns, the fine is still going to be the same $100.

Overdraft Fees:

A single overdraft fee can range from anywhere between $15 and $50, with the average being $35. These are costs that are ultimately only levied against those below certain income levels, yet these fees earn financial institutes an average of more than $30 billion a year (it’s worth noting that the Trump administration wanted to potentially make it easier for banks to penalize customers with overdraft fees only a couple of years ago).

Someone might suggest simply not having a bank account, but that’s hardly a viable option for most people these days. Increasingly, employers push for direct deposits in place of paper checks (even those direct payment cards provided by certain employers are backed by financial institutions), and payment of monthly bills is becoming more inconvenient (if not outright impossible) with cash. God forbid these same people want to save money by utilizing automatic payments for many of their bills because that isn’t an option without a debit or credit card. They had better keep a close eye on their finances because a single $60 payment for their gas or water bill can suddenly run them $95 or higher if they don’t quite have the money in their account yet. Naturally, this sort of thing can cause a cascade effect.

Late Fees:

Late payment fees for bills are something we’re unlikely to see if we’re above a certain income level as well, especially if we can comfortably utilize automatic deductions for the bills in question. Paying your monthly electric bill ten days late doesn’t cost the electric company anything, but it will cost you…either a percentage or a flat-rate late fee. Paying your rent three days late (in South Dakota) probably doesn’t cost your landlord or property management company anything, though it can come with late fees or trigger the beginning of the eviction process.

Deferred Maintenance:

Whether it’s your home, your car, or even your own body, sometimes one simply can’t afford to get something checked out promptly. A minor tooth pain that would cost less than $100 to address when only a cavity will cost upwards of $500 when it requires a root canal. A small vibration in your car may be a minor repair of only $300, but if one can’t afford that, it could end up being something that costs thousands (or takes the vehicle out of commission entirely). A crack in the living room window could be too expensive to address, but when it shatters during a blizzard and allows freezing temperatures and snow to accumulate inside of the home, the costs could be insurmountable.These are additional financial burdens that typically aren’t experienced by those above certain income levels (assuming they aren’t living ridiculously beyond their means).

More things could be tossed into this list of ways our financial system is rigged at the expense of those who have little, to the benefit of those who have plenty, such as student loan payments (whether we’re talking about college/university or trade school) and debts sent to collections…but I’d never finish typing this up. It’s worth thinking about ways these issues can be addressed and the inequity can be resolved. With the sheer absurdity of our financial institutions on display, there’s no time like the present to think about ways to fix what is clearly a broken system.

This post was originally written for my Facebook page. I hadn’t done anything with my blog for quite some time, so I figured I’d copy it over here as well.

Of Patriotism and Ignorance

I can’t believe that I am still seeing people on social media complaining about those pictures that were circulating, you know the pictures, the ones featuring people standing on the American flag.

You rabid, flag-waving assholes really just don’t seem to get it at all, and I suppose that I can’t blame you, you’re just fundamentally stupid or so blindly patriotic that you can’t wrap your head around the fact that the rest of the nation isn’t living under the sheltering blanket of straight, white, Christian, male privilege that you have spent your whole life benefitting from.

You can keep your symbol; since that is apparently the only thing about this nation you actually place value on. I’ll side with the people standing on that symbol, the people who place their value on the rights and magnificence that symbol is supposed to represent…even though it never really has, except for on paper.

We live in a divided nation in so many ways.

We live in a nation where two major political parties are at odds, sometimes rising to the point of violence between subscribers to their respective affiliations…even though neither of those parties are even half as invested in the best interests of the American people as they are focused on their own personal self-glorification and the agendas that they’re invested in.

We live in a nation where ignorant, fundamentalist Christians are setting themselves up as a ruling class in their own imaginations, pretending that they are being attacked by anyone who doesn’t agree with their worldview, while voicing clear opinions that anyone not like them should be penalized in defiance of the wishes of our Founding Fathers (don’t imagine it’s just the Separation of Church and State that spells it out, the wording of the Treaty of Tripoli that was unanimously adopted by John Adams and the Senate in 1797 makes it very clear that this was never intended to be a Christian nation).

We live in a nation where anyone who isn’t a straight, white, Christian male experiences clear bigotry on a nearly constant basis, but are ignored when they attempt to change that fact through peaceful means, where they are met with lip service and platitudes until the only way to respond is by violence and extreme measures when tension has reached a boiling point.

We live in a nation where there is a very real fight between an outdated, out-of-touch religious ideology and those who happen to love others of the same sex, and the civil rights of a minority of our population are actually treated as a battleground.

Tell me again of the importance of this symbol that you worship. Tell me again of how unpatriotic and horrible these people are who have stood on the flag. You can keep it. You can have that tainted symbol. It doesn’t stand for what you seem to think it stands for. I’d rather stand for the rights that the symbol is supposed to represent, and the actual people of this country, not just those who fall into your narrow perspective of what people should be. You can keep the symbol. You clearly don’t care about the rights, because it is one of those rights that these people can desecrate that symbol.

If you care more about the flag than your fellow American’s rights, you’re an asshole and you are a bigger part of the problem with this nation than they will ever be.

Heresy Just In Time for Easter

A reasonably good friend of mine decided to claim that atheism is a copout on my part. This came about after I informed him that the reason we see instances of atheists apparently defending Islam is that they are trying to respond to anti-Muslim bigotry from Christians for the most part. This apparent defense of Islam is simply an example of pointing out to the Christians in question that there is a major case of the pot calling the kettle black as well as a great deal of misinformation and poor understanding where Islam is concerned. I go on to explain that the only reason we see more action against Christians here in America is because Muslims constitute a vastly smaller portion of the population than Christians, who make up the largest minority in the Western world. If Muslims were the majority here and were insisting on imposing their cultural choices on everyone else, we would see the inverse of what we see now.

My response is to ask how it is a copout to not believe in fairy tales? The individual in question doesn’t believe in 99.9999% of the Gods that people have believed in or still believe in…all of which had just as much veracity when claiming to be true and correct. There are “holy books” which support essentially every God that he doesn’t believe in with just as much historical accuracy and authenticity as the book that he does accept as being true. What makes the God that he believes in any more real than the Judaic God of the Old Testament or the God of Islam, the numerous manifestations of God in both Hinduism or Buddhism, or the multifaceted God of Baha’i…or even the Norse, Roman, Greek, Mayan, or Babylonian gods that he casually dismisses?

I think it is far more definitive as a copout to just accept something as true when there is literally no evidence to support it and ample evidence that goes against it. To shut off the brain and just accept something without critical thought is more of a copout than it ever will be to analyze something and apply scrutiny.

His response, of course, is to insist that I am guilty of another huge copout by claiming there is no evidence to support the Bible that he holds so dear.

He asks me about the Egyptian chariot wheels in the Red Sea exactly where the Bible said they should be. He touts the fact that they have found Sodom and Gomorrah exactly where the Bible indicated they would be, covered in the purest sulfur ever found. He argues that Noah’s ark was found in the 1970s, exactly where the Bible said it would be, though certain governments have been working to keep that a secret for some time. He goes on about how archeologists have used the Bible to find dig sites for a long time and that the Bible has managed to prove these archaeologists wrong from time to time where historical people and places are concerned.

I try to remind my friend that Sodom and Gomorrah having once been real cities is not evidence of Biblical accuracy. Those two cities, along with others that were not mentioned in the Bible, rested along a fault line located near the Dead Sea and could easily have been destroyed by seismic activity along the Jordan Rift Valley. Evidence of the partial (not complete) destruction of cities in that region has been potentially tied to activity along the fault line no different from earthquakes that plague California. I neglected to point out, because there would have been no point, that though there have been archaeological discoveries of settlements in the region, none of them has been verified as the basis of the Sodom and Gomorrah story. I also didn’t bother to point out that these stories were written at some point well after the devastation would have taken place, if in fact it did, and it’s nothing more than an example of taking an event from the past and applying a rationalization to what happened as a method of spinning it to fit the narrative of the writer. Similarly, someone centuries from now could write about some horrible, sinful event in Pripyat that led to God punishing them by unleashing a great poison upon the populace. From a point in the future, any past or present event could be suitably framed to reinforce any fictional narrative that we desire, especially when there is no written documentation of what actually did happen.

I tried to point out that he was dramatically overstating the claim that Noah’s ark had been found, considering that there have been dozens of finds in numerous locations that have been discovered to be hoaxes. There have been many searches in and around the Ararat mountain region, and nothing has yet been found. There have, however, been unsubstantiated claims by men who were trying to obtain fame and recognition, but there has been no evidence found of Noah’s ark aside from maybe a single plank of wood picked up a long time ago that the finder decided must be from the ark.

I pointed out that the claim that Egyptian chariot wheels were found in the Red Sea was a verifiably false story and that there were no Egyptian records that could be incontrovertibly tied to Moses, the plagues, or the exodus across the Red Sea.

I tried to explain to him that claiming the Bible could be used to determine actual historical and archaeological information is a no-brainer. Of course some of the places mentioned in the Bible existed in real life. A lot of places in Stephen King stories exist as well, though it hardly means that the narratives taking place in those locations are relevant or historically accurate. We have used myths from other cultures to dig up cities around the world. Would that fact make those myths as accurate and truthful as the Bible is?

I also felt that it would be prudent to suggest that he ignores the fact that Biblical scholars around the world concur on the fact that large segments of the Old Testament (from the creation myth to the flood and Noah) were adapted by the Jewish people from Sumerian/Babylonian myths that were not even monotheistic stories in the first place.

My friend suggests in response that I am guilty of casually dismissing what amounts to massive collections of evidence in his eyes, that the site of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah shows clear evidence of God’s footprint.

I had no choice but to ask him if he really thought that I hadn’t carefully paid attention to any of these major “finds” when they were reported? I have many areas of interest, and history is one of them…especially history of myth. I also felt it necessary to point out that what he calls God’s footprint is less dramatic of destruction than what happened in Pompeii, and that didn’t require God’s judgment.

Addendum

This conversation continued further after my posting the initial blog, I have added the following:

My friend replied to my last comment by telling me that what I claimed there is nothing close to what has actually been found. He suggested that I perform more in depth research and indicated that he would be able to share some things with me that I should watch or read.

I informed him that I have actually taken the time to do a lot of research on this subject, from childhood into adulthood, and that the things he insists are true are quite simply not supported by reality.

He went on to tell me that I don’t know anything about what was found in Ararat, that there is video of the chariot wheels in the Red Sea, and that there is an altar with Baal carvings and drawings on the opposite side of the Red Sea.

He mocked my claim, that I have done my homework, and stateed that I have not…while sharing a link to an article from December of 2013 from www.sunnyskyz.com regarding the claim from the 1950s that Noah’s ark had been discovered in eastern Turkey. He went on to say that he could continue on like this for days but believed that it would be more beneficial for me to do my own digging.

I replied that the “find” in Turkey that he is sharing happens to be one of the unsubstantiated finds that I was talking about previously. I explained that it had been disproven almost immediately, as soon as geologists were brought on site to examine it.

I assured him that I have already done my homework. I even took the time to explain to him that evidence to the contrary of the outlandish, albeit scientific sounding claims repeated in the Sunny Skyz article has been readily available from a number of independent sources for a long time now. I went through the trouble of laying out some of these refutations to the story he shared, letting him know that no pitch was actually found at the site (contrary to claims made by those who wanted to spread the story), the “regular structure” which was claimed to be found with metal detectors was nothing more than a random distribution just like one would find pretty much anywhere, that the shape (though it, like many other natural objects, may appear man-made upon cursory inspection) is nothing more than hardened mud and occasional boulders, and that only a couple of traces of petrified wood were found (substantially less than one would find here in the Black Hills).

I also assured him that the site where the story of chariot wheels in the Red Sea first appeared was a satire site, not a real news site, pointing out that they make a clear statement that the stories contained there are satire.

I expressed my sincere apology for poking holes in his beliefs, and stated that he is the one who needs to do homework and research on these topics. I suggested that he reads a story like this and accepts it as true without looking into it at all because it fits his worldview.

I know how strong his faith is and how much he wants to believe these things when he reads them…but he needs to take some time to actually study the sources a bit and look at what is being said and by whom.

I love him, and he is my friend, and I told him that he needs to stop doubting that I have done a lot of research on these things and others. I read almost as much non-fiction as fiction…and I read a lot. I watch a lot of documentaries along with the movies and television shows that I watch as well. I don’t have a life…so that is what I do for fun.

My friend replied by stating that there was no doubt that the find in Turkey was Noah’s ark. He accused me of not reading the whole story, that they found a lot more than a piece of wood. He further stated that my claim that geologists had studied it was false because it took the initial crew 15 years to gain access, that the government of Turkey had shut out anyone else who wanted to come in, and that after naming it Noah’s Ark State Park they almost immediately shut it down and guarded it at gunpoint.

As a brief aside, none of that is true, regarding the site being shut down and guarded at gunpoint. People have been able to investigate the site plenty of times.

He tells me that I still don’t know the whole story but claim to have done my homework. He talks about how they pulled aluminum rivets out of there as well as animal dung and proved it was a ship’s hull using ground penetrating radar.

All of which have either been proven to be total fabrications or have been explained without difficulty.

I told my friend that the story goes back a lot further than just that article posted in December of 2013, and that most of what he’s staking his belief on has been fabricated or exaggerated.

My friend went on to state that the initial person claiming to have found the Egyptian chariot wheels was Ron Wyatt, that he has actual footage from the late 80s of the find. He admits that they called him crazy, but claimed that they went back to the site in 2011 and found more than a few chariot wheels. According to my friend, they found human remains and animal remains, that this is a fact.

I assured my friend that I did indeed read the article he shared, telling him that it makes up all sorts of things considering that the initial investigation found no evidence of any kind pointing toward Noah or any sort of ark.

I felt it necessary to explain to my friend that Ron Wyatt was also involved in the surge of those pushing the belief that the Noah’s ark site was valid as well. It was necessary to point out that essentially everyone, including Biblical scholars, scientists, and archaeologists have dismissed Wyatt’s claims. I told my friend that Wyatt hasn’t ever been a credible source of information, that the guy was a crackpot and a fraud with no expertise of any kind.

I informed my friend that the story about going back to the site and finding remains and chariots was written as satire, that it didn’t happen, and that Wyatt’s original claims were bogus. I even went so far as to share the article from World News Daily Report (a satire site).

I went on to say that I clearly know more about Wyatt’s history as a well-known fraud…that his name is only popular or touted where pseudoarchaeology is concerned, within pseudoscience circles. This was a man who also claimed to have discovered Christ’s cross, his blood, the Tower of Babel, and who knows how many other things…a man with no geological, archaeological, or historical expertise wanders around and makes ludicrous claims, all of which were disproven, and my friend was using this man as a source of information.

My friend’s response was to say that I was wrong and that these were documented facts. He went on to say that this keeps me a clueless consumer, which is what they want.

I haven’t the foggiest notion who “they” are.

He hints at other archaeological facts that are out there in support of the Bible, but that none of which have been released or made into news stories. He suggested that I keep believing the lies and that I’m a great straightforward consumer, to, “keep the blinders on for a little while longer,” because they almost have me locked in.

My first question was to ask how he found out about these things if they haven’t been made into news stories. I admit that I openly mocked that the sites he uses for information aren’t somehow magically privy to information that the rest of the world lacks. I also pointed out that a lot of people knew who Wyatt was before he died, that he didn’t keep any of his “findings” secret and, in fact, spouted off his completely incorrect nonsense to every corner of the world.

What I wanted to ask was whether my friend is aware of what the term delusions of grandeur is indicative of…because, to believe that he somehow sees truth and facts that the rest of the world is somehow ignorant of kind of falls into that category, at least without him being an expert in one or another of the fields in question (which he is not).